Thursday, December 20, 2018

Lessons from the Past : Rectification : Colorado Organization for Revolutionary Struggle (M-L-M)

Democracy and Class Struggle says we need to improve in 2019 and apply our rational and scientific methods in MLM and not end up in the subjectivist swamp of modern revisionism.

Colorado Organization for Revolutionary Struggle (M-L-M)
Rectification Campaign – COReS (mlm)

First Published: Resistencia, Vol. 10, No. 9, September 1979
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba

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COReS saw the necessity for a rectification campaign in early 1978. Two general problems which repeatedly arose were the major difficulties in leading mass struggles and the insufficient political consolidation among the cadre. We were forced to delay the campaign for almost a year since the polemic on the international situation threatened a split in the revolutionary forces in our area, thus calling for intensive work on the subject. Also, we began the merger process with LPR (M-L) during this period. But finally in April of this year, we were able to initiate the campaign.


By then the problems we had earlier identified had deepened and new ones had emerged. Then too, our grasp of the interrelatedness of the problems had improved and we set out to focus on six main areas that needed rectification:

1) Our method of thinking 
2) Our style of criticism/self-criticism 
3) The scope of our work, spontaneity and amateurishness 
4) Democratic centralism 
5) Questions of our mass work 
6) The woman question

The problems were interrelated and were manifested in the realm of policy, structure, practice, ideology, politics, etc. By identifying the main areas we were better able to begin to separate out the problems and understand their significance. The two we saw as crucial to begin with were method of thinking and the style of criticism/self-criticism.

Inherent in the rectification process is the need for sum-up of past experiences of the organization. It was imperative that the summing up be as objective and all-sided as possible. To do that, we needed to uproot our tendencies toward subjective, pessimistic, negative, one-sided attitudes and evaluations we had been making. Once we began to analyze our problems from a more objective basis, we were better able to determine what was wrong and how to uproot it. Secondly, it was necessary to correct the style of criticism/self-criticism. This is because rectification also inherently develops through criticism and self-criticism. Our practice and style at this had degenerated with liberalism and sectarianism being the main deviations.

Through this rectification campaign, we hope to rectify our incorrect methods of thinking and styles of work. By improving these we can more objectively look at our practice, line, direction, limitation and abilities, the obstacles we must overcome and our new future direction. We hope to set ourselves on the correct course to further develop that fine style of work that is necessary to the health of a Marxist-Leninist organization – criticism and self-criticism, close ties to the masses, integration of theory and practice. Most importantly, we see the need to revitalize ourselves and by using the resources we do have, to contribute to the growth of the communist movement and to the organization of the masses of working and oppressed people of the U.S.

From the onset, we recognized the importance of involving all rank and file cadre and the contacts of the organization in the rectification. This needed to be done without liquidation of the guidance from leadership and the organization! We first asked rank and file cadre to sum-up the problems and errors of the organization they saw then. From this and other investigation, leadership summarized the six main areas of problems and developed study materials and discussions within the organization. Cadre of particular units were asked to sum-up the way these errors had been manifested in the political work the unit was responsible for as well as the internal relations of the unit and the relation between that unit and higher bodies. Individual cadre were to examine their own practice and do self-criticism around the main points.

Subsequently, the organization consulted contacts and asked for their participation. This was done primarily in the form of holding several propaganda conferences, in preparation of which contacts were provided a study list and explanation of each area of rectification. We found that these conferences were not as consistently productive as we had hoped, as some of our old practices continued in carrying them out. More successful methods were developed in working with contacts individually to gather criticisms and also by taking up the criticism in the context of ongoing areas of work of the organization. It was important not to wait till the end of the campaign to correct the errors as they were evident and possible.

The role of the leadership in the process is crucial. We knew that the leadership of the organization had to take primary responsibility for the errors of the organization and that by opening wide the call for criticism, leadership would have to accept the brunt of those criticisms. We also recognized that though leadership made many mistakes, that it was overall good; that COReS had made some positive contributions to the communist movement. It is now seen that we must improve not only the democracy but also the centralism of the organization. Thus, while encouraging rank and file and contacts to “let it all hang out”, leadership has the responsibility to guide the campaign and direct the implementation of points of rectification without killings anyone’s initiative or stifling struggle.

At the same time, it would be incorrect to blame all our errors on leadership. Each of us had to analyze our specific role in the organization-examining our individual promoting and struggling for the correct line and style as now identified, and our role in concilliating to or promoting an incorrect line or style. Thus while there is a need to identify the main proponents of what we have now summed up as the incorrect line, practice, etc, it is vital to understand that everyone in organization to one extent or another has been helping to carry out that incorrect line. It must be uprooted from the whole organization, from all our work, from each and every cadre’s work.

The LPR rectification campaign experience has greatly aided our campaign. We have used materials they suggested including their articles that appeared in RESISTANCE (See RESISTANCE, Vol 9 No 7, 8; Vol 10, No. 1) and have shared experiences and offered criticisms in the two campaigns. The merger process itself, in which we have both been summing up our line and practice, cannot be separated from the rectification process. Deviations and incorrect practice in the lines were closely tied to the areas needing rectification.

We have spent some time here explaining the approach used in our rectification because we see this is vital to the success of any campaign. Various organizations in the communist movement have had or are having such campaigns. This is obviously a product of their realization that our movement faces many difficulties not the least of which is the failure to produce a genuine anti-revisionist party. Perhaps our experience can aid to improve the potential of other such campaigns and contribute to the development of that party.


Generally, our approach to many tasks reflects the outlook of the petty bourgeois – a one-sided, subjectivist approach. In this, we have acted more often as casual revolutionaries than as scientists of Marxism-Leninism Mao Zedong Thought. One major example was that of investigation. Related, of course, to other errors, we found that we have two deviations on this: 1. “too little investigation” and 2. “too much investigation”.

1. We usually did incomplete investigation that was limited to knowledge only about our region of the country; to perceptual and empirical experience leading to a shallow grasp of the facts; by not relying on ours and the movement’s experiences and beginning with a sum-up of that by doing a hit-and-miss investigation that was not all-sided.

2. At times, we also tended to drown ourselves in collecting facts and data not intended to directly fill in the gaps in our knowledge. Later the investigation could get bogged down in the drawing up, revising and discussing of elaborate plans that never saw the light of practice. This was a manifestation of petty-bourgeois intellectualizing and trivia-mongering.

Overall, both deviations occurred because we did not well enough know what and how much we needed to investigate–whether to support the strike or how to support it in our area were confused with each other. “Planning” took several months to complete and by the time we emerged the strike was nearly over. We didn’t rely enough on the political guidance from LPR (M-L) and the views they had published in RESISTANCE. The work was never completely summed up and made available to the communist movement.

Our concept of study and line and our integration of theory and practice was another major stumbling block produced by our subjectivist approach. Study was reduced to largely studying the Marxist-Leninist classics. What this belittled was study of the other 2/3rd’s necessary for communist work: history and conditions. Thus while having a good grasp of Lenin’s teachings on Imperialism, we are in a vacuum about what is the real history of the development of monopoly capitalism in the U.S. and real knowledge about what the Fortune 500 do in our region, what they own, what sector of the bourgeoisie they represent, etc.

Linked to our attitude of small circle spirit we often would raise one experience and our local experience to the level of line or theory for the entire movement and country. Such empiricism no matter how much it was the result of “study” led us for instance, to deduce that the main danger in the woman’s movement was socialist and radical feminism. In truth this was at best a local main danger to the developing elements in the woman’s movement who were open to socialism and even then only for a span of a few years it seems. (The merger report to appear in RESISTANCE will have more on this and why we see the main danger in the woman’s movement is bourgeois feminism.)

Our concept of theory and its integration with practiced revealed several other problems. We have not maintained a consistent use of theory to guide our work. Rather it has good and bad moments with the good coming in only in short spurts. Units of the organization might go months without having utilized the classics to resolve problems in their work. Or study of theory might be undertaken that only mechanically and vaguely was related to the tasks under discussion.

Another bad style was to approach e-very new question as if we were completely ignorant and to engage in voluminous study of theory that was unachievable in some decent period of time. This in turn fed into previously mentioned lag in giving timely communist leadership.

The question of the line of the organization followed suit. In other words, “line” for a time was largely handed down from leadership, a process that belittled rank and file participation. This complicated the development of our cadre leading to the idea that if line was some super elaboration based on excessive study of the classics, then few cadre knew what the line was. (There are related criticisms of this which will we explained in our report on democratic centralism at a later time.)

Dogmatism was also manifested in our approach to the use of the classics at times. No matter what we said, we did not always grasp well enough the conditions under which Lenin said this or that. And as we said earlier, we often did not even know our conditions well enough to apply correctly some teaching which we did have a good grasp of.

To Be Continued

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